Announcing our short story contest winners …

Our winner for our short story contest is “Victor’s Rewrite #1” by Amy O’Hearn.

This time around we also have two honorable mentions:
“Hubcap, Frog and Luna Moth” by Alina Stefanescu
“Jungles of America” by Jessica Barksdale

Here is what our judge Tracy Guzeman had to say about the contest:

As a writer, I take guilty pleasure in being able to abandon myself to a story not of my own making. Someone else is tasked with cutting and revising, with choosing one right word over another right word, with grounding the reader in an unfamiliar moment and making them want to linger there, in the company of strangers who may turn out to be lovely people or devious scoundrels, in situations harmonious or not. That was the joy found in reading the entries for Helen’s Third Short Story Contest. The misery came in trying to settle on one winning story. (I take it as a good sign for the magazine that I had trouble narrowing the field.) If you are anything like me, you want to know “why not?” as much as you want to know “why?”

I eliminated some stories despite liking their characters, because a sharp and intriguing premise lost momentum in the end and fizzled, leaving me to wonder what I was meant to take away. In other cases, writers seemed more intent on garnering high marks for verbal pyrotechnics than on building and telling a compelling tale, leaving the reader awed, but standing alone outside the circle of the story. And then there were entries destined to be something longer and more complex, outgrowing their short story boundaries, leaving me with questions that would, no doubt, be addressed in some future chapter further down the road.

There were several entries I marked to read again, with intelligent writing and characters I wanted to spend more time with. And that was the factor that ultimately guided my (very subjective) choices. The winning story, as well as both Honorable Mentions, abandoned safe distance and invited me in, sharing their characters’ hopes and dreams and failures and shortcomings. These characters stayed with me. I cared what happened to them, and found myself wondering where they were, what they were doing, and how things had turned out for them following that last word. I am wondering still.

O’Hearn will be awarded a $100 cash prize for her winning story and will be published in our Spring 2016 online issue.

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